Many people still believe that virtual assistants are only capable of performing basic tasks such as booking travel arrangements or updating website information. These tasks may not seem very exciting in terms of career prospects, especially since VA’s often have to start their own business and take full responsibility for its operation, including accounting, taxes, and social security payments.
Given this widespread belief, it’s important to consider whether vocational education and training (VET) organizations should encourage and provide learning opportunities for those interested in becoming virtual assistant. Before we can answer this question, we need to address a few simpler questions.
Defining Virtual Assistant as a Profession: A Closer Look at the Job Description and Qualifications
There are many job descriptions available online that define a (VA) as a self-employed worker who provides administrative services to clients from a remote location, typically a home office. However, these descriptions are broad and make it difficult to differentiate a VA from an online secretary. The European multilingual classification of skills, competencies, qualifications, and occupations (ESCO) does not recognize VA as a specific occupation. To be classified as an occupation, the job must be qualified more specifically, such as sales assistant, promotion assistant, or editorial assistant, all of which have an ESCO occupation code. The International Classification of Occupations (ISCO) defines a job as a set of tasks and duties performed by one person, whether for an employer or in self-employment. The list of possible tasks for a VA is too extensive to fit into such classification categories. Therefore, we need to examine how virtual assistants work to determine if they are a distinct profession that requires specific training.
Defining Virtual Assistant as a Profession: Examining the Unique Characteristics of VA Work
Let’s take a moment to consider the unique features of virtual assistants that set them apart from other occupations.
One key characteristic of VA is that they work online, which is why they’re also known as “virtual” assistants. They work remotely, not in a physical office with face-to-face interactions.
Another aspect that distinguishes VA from other professions is that they are self-employed. They work as freelancers, meaning they can choose their clients and negotiate the tasks they want to perform. However, being independent also means that VA have to manage their own work and take full responsibility for the operations of their own business.
Because VA are self-employed, they often have to multitask and take care of various aspects of their business, from accounting to marketing. This can be a challenge, even for VAs who specialize in specific services.
Finally, communication can also be a unique challenge for VA’s. Since human interactions are primarily face-to-face, virtual assistants have to rely on online tools to communicate effectively with their clients, which can require special skills and strategies.
Essential Skills for Virtual Assistants: Qualifications and Training.
To become a VA, it is important to have skills in the specific domain of services they offer. There are a wide variety of fields in which virtual assistance can be provided. However, there are some competencies that all VA should have to succeed in this field, based on the characteristics of their work.
One important set of skills are digital skills, including the fundamentals of using technology in a safe and efficient way, handling online content, software and application proficiency, network skills, and using virtual private networks (VPNs).
Another important set of skills are self-employment skills, including understanding legal issues such as freelancer status, taxes, and social security payments, as well as accounting, business planning, marketing, and organizational skills. Time management, physical organization, and work-life balance are also important to consider.
Multitasking is a key skill for virtual assistants, including prioritizing tasks and reducing distractions. Concentration and attention to detail are important, as well as mindfulness practices. Finally, communication skills are essential for VA to communicate effectively with clients online, including understanding personal communication styles, using different online communication platforms, and negotiating skills.
While this training programme is a general draft, it will provide essential skills for anyone interested in becoming a virtual assistant and entering the growing market of online services.